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Measuring Automotive Surfaces From Substrate to Clear Coat

For years, automotive manufacturers have only been able to verify the quality of paints and coatings after completing the entire process. Without a method to track the quality of paint finishes from end-to-end of the coating process, components continue through manufacturing, accruing greater and greater value, before ultimately being scrapped after the final coat.

The growing variety of substrates adds to painting complexity. Raw sheet steel, zinc plated steels, aluminum, plastics, composites, and additive materials each react differently to the same coating process. Providing a consistent finish across these materials is a significant challenge—and one that is not always met. Many costly recalls have occurred over past decades due to paint quality issues, costing millions of dollars in direct costs as well as impacting customer perception and brand loyalty.

Industry and metrology professionals have called for a new production measurement system to correlate the surface texture at each step in the painting process with final paint quality. 4D Technology recently announced its new 4D SurfSpec instrument that can ‘fingerprint’ the coating processes, identifying issues early in the process that will lead to poor final finishes. The 4D SurfSpec is the first surface measurement system for process control of coatings from substrate to clearcoat.

Portable, Robust Production Measurement

At only 3 kg (6.6 lbs), the portable 4D SurfSpec can be used throughout the factory, either handheld or robot-mounted. Test any of the common locations-of-concern on a body-in-white, then retest the same locations after coating to trace results throughout the process. The 4D SurfSpec measures in any orientation, even upside-down, on vertical, and on curved surfaces. Measurement with the gauge is simple and fast, producing measurement results in just seconds.

Go/No-go Feedback and Deep Analysis

4D SurfSpec is production-ready, providing a simple go/no-go signal and real-time, 3D view for immediate operator feedback. The included software also provides deep, experimental analysis. Automatic feature-finding detects high areas, pinhole quantity, density, height and volume, and lateral dimensions of user-defined defects. Users can also export data to common applications such as Bandify3D software for further analysis or to correlate with other instruments.

The 4D SurfSpec has been developed in partnership with key industry experts to provide real-world usability and the most relevant information. It is the only system that measures surfaces on all common materials, at every coating stage. The system provides reliable data to control every step of the coating process and produce high-quality final coatings.

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